THE UNWILLING

A dishonorably discharged Marine returns home, throwing his family into chaos.

A family melodrama at first appears to be the center of Hart’s latest, a diffuse tale that lacks the drive of his other works. Jason French has just returned to Charleston, South Carolina. After a dishonorable discharge from the Marines, Jason spiraled into drug abuse and landed in prison. Now freed, his presence roils a wounded family. His twin brother, Robert, was killed in Vietnam. Family patriarch William and his wife, Gabrielle (a woefully undeveloped character), determine to keep Jason away from his impressionable younger brother, Gibby, a high school senior. Gibby looks up to Jason, eventually believing his dishonorable discharge was undeserved. Gibby’s coming-of-age tale might have focused the story, but it vies with a long lineup of characters, events, and themes trailing through the plot. Family drama morphs into horror story when a convict among a busload of inmates from a state prison farm spots Jason and informs Prisoner X (so named because his real name is Axel, or possibly because he killed 10 men). Worth millions and brutally powerful, X terrorizes prison staff and powerful outsiders into doing his bidding. X shared prison time with Jason and now, for reasons gradually parsed out, wants the ex-Marine back at the prison, so he manipulates his minions to murder a woman Jason knows and frame him for the killing. Fleeing arrest, Jason is captured and sent back to prison. Gibby thereupon determines to clear his brother of murder and learn what was behind Jason’s discharge from the Marines (alas, not a very startling reveal). Now the narrative turns into a more traditional police procedural. The case windup adds some much-needed juice to an otherwise slow-moving, colorless narrative, which ends with a chilling kicker.

Less would be a lot more.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-16772-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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More like a con than a truly satisfying psychological mystery.

LOCAL WOMAN MISSING

What should be a rare horror—a woman gone missing—becomes a pattern in Kubica's latest thriller.

One night, a young mother goes for a run. She never comes home. A few weeks later, the body of Meredith, another missing woman, is found with a self-inflicted knife wound; the only clue about the fate of her still-missing 6-year-old daughter, Delilah, is a note that reads, "You’ll never find her. Don’t even try." Eleven years later, a girl escapes from a basement where she’s been held captive and severely abused; she reports that she is Delilah. Kubica alternates between chapters in the present narrated by Delilah’s younger brother, Leo, now 15 and resentful of the hold Delilah’s disappearance and Meredith’s death have had on his father, and chapters from 11 years earlier, narrated by Meredith and her neighbor Kate. Meredith begins receiving texts that threaten to expose her and tear her life apart; she struggles to keep them, and her anxiety, from her family as she goes through the motions of teaching yoga and working as a doula. One client in particular worries her; Meredith fears her husband might be abusing her, and she's also unhappy with the way the woman’s obstetrician treats her. So this novel is both a mystery about what led to Meredith’s death and Delilah’s imprisonment and the story of what Delilah's return might mean to her family and all their well-meaning neighbors. Someone is not who they seem; someone has been keeping secrets for 11 long years. The chapters complement one another like a patchwork quilt, slowly revealing the rotten heart of a murderer amid a number of misdirections. The main problem: As it becomes clear whodunit, there’s no true groundwork laid for us to believe that this person would behave at all the way they do.

More like a con than a truly satisfying psychological mystery.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-778-38944-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Park Row Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

LABYRINTH

Coulter’s treasured FBI agents take on two cases marked by danger and personal involvement.

Dillon Savitch and his wife, Lacey Sherlock, have special abilities that have served them well in law enforcement (Paradox, 2018, etc.). But that doesn't prevent Sherlock’s car from hitting a running man after having been struck by a speeding SUV that runs a red light. The runner, though clearly injured, continues on his way and disappears. Not so the SUV driver, a security engineer for the Bexholt Group, which has ties to government agencies. Sherlock’s own concussion causes memory loss so severe that she doesn’t recognize Savitch or remember their son, Sean. The whole incident seems more suspicious when a blood test from the splatter of the man Sherlock hit reveals that he’s Justice Cummings, an analyst for the CIA. The agency’s refusal to cooperate makes Savitch certain that Bexholt is involved in a deep-laid plot. Meanwhile, Special Agent Griffin Hammersmith is visiting friends who run a cafe in the touristy Virginia town of Gaffers Ridge. Hammersmith, who has psychic abilities, is taken aback when he hears in his mind a woman’s cry for help. Reporter Carson DeSilva, who came to the area to interview a Nobel Prize winner, also has psychic abilities, and she overhears the thoughts of Rafer Bodine, a young man who has apparently kidnapped and possibly murdered three teenage girls. Unluckily, she blurts out her thoughts, and she’s snatched and tied up in a cellar by Bodine. Bodine may be a killer, but he’s also the nephew of the sheriff and the son of the local bigwig. So the sheriff arrests Hammersmith and refuses to accept his FBI credentials. Bodine's mother has psychic powers strong enough to kill, but she meets her match in Hammersmith, DeSilva, Savitch, and Sherlock.

Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9365-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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